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Miami (Ohio) survived a nasty youth movement and could reach a bowl in 2016

A third-year breakthrough could be on the horizon for the RedHawks.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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1. All the right moves (on paper)

Two wins is tangible improvement over zero, but the record didn't fill you in on how much of Miami's house Martin began to get in order. This team was close to something better.

The bad news: the RedHawks' offense has to be rebuilt, and if you've been reading these MAC previews, you're seeing that quite a few teams were young last year and can be expected to improve.

-- The big 2015 Miami (Ohio) football guide

We always like to think of improvement and program building as linear exercises: You improve, then you improve a little bit more, then you improve a little bit more. But like everything else in life, it's far more jagged and inconsistent than that. You lurch forward, then stumble backwards. Sure, if you've got a big leap in you, it's probably happening within three years, but long-term progress is never quite as clean as we would prefer.

Success happens out of order. Chuck Martin probably knows this pretty well. The Miami (Ohio) head coach won two Division II national titles at Grand Valley State in 2005-06, then came up just short three times. In his first year as Notre Dame's offensive coordinator (2012), the Irish ranked 21st in Off. S&P+ and reached the BCS championship game; in his second, the Irish fell to 36th and 9-4. And in two years in Oxford, he has engineered significant improvement (Miami rose from 125th to 99th in S&P+ in his first year on the job), then weathered massive regression (back to 117th in 2015).

The 2015 tailspin was no major surprise, of course. While the defense improved slightly (from 102nd in Def. S&P+ to 95th), the offense started over. And I mean started over. The leading passer, rusher, and receiver and three multi-year starters from the 2014 offensive line were all gone, and Martin handed the reins to his guys. That meant two freshmen quarterbacks throwing 249 passes, four freshman running backs carrying the ball 258 times, and freshmen and sophomores combining to catch 105 passes. Freshmen and sophomores accounted for 27 of 60 starts on the line, as well.

Unless you're signing four- and five-star guys, an offense this young simply isn't going to succeed. There's almost no chance. But in the name of program building, Miami took its lumps, scored more than 14 points just twice in the first eight games (once against Presbyterian, if that counts), and showed just enough late-season development to make you think the growing pains could prove worthwhile.

And then Martin went out and signed another stellar recruiting class. Despite just a 5-19 record in two years, the RedHawks inked the No. 3 class in the MAC according to the 247Sports Composite. That was after signing the No. 2 class the year before. Per 247, Miami now boasts two three-star quarterbacks, two three-star running backs, six three-star receivers, eight three-star offensive linemen, four three-star defensive linemen, two three-star linebackers, and five three-star defensive backs. In the MAC, that will play. Martin brought in a load of Notre Dame transfers when he came to town, but the long-term strategy is to build with five-year players, and he's doing that.

A lot of this talent is still of the freshman or sophomore variety, so Miami probably won't be in position to suddenly compete for the MAC East title or anything. Still, Martin is methodically building a deep, athletic squad, and if he can keep morale up for one more year and maybe win a few more close games -- the RedHawks are just 3-8 in games decided by one possession over the last two years -- then this slow approach might begin to bear fruit in 2017. Hell, there's an off-chance it will do so this fall.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 113 | Final S&P+ Rk: 117
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep Presbyterian N/A 26-7 W 64% 100% +10.6
12-Sep at Wisconsin 32 0-58 L 3% 0% -24.8 -26.0
19-Sep Cincinnati 72 33-37 L 53% 58% +12.0 +15.0
26-Sep at Western Kentucky 15 14-56 L 3% 0% -20.1 -21.5
3-Oct at Kent State 109 14-20 L 5% 1% +2.8 +4.5
10-Oct at Ohio 69 3-34 L 6% 0% -9.7 -15.0
17-Oct Northern Illinois 66 12-45 L 3% 0% -20.0 -17.5
24-Oct at Western Michigan 51 13-35 L 14% 2% +1.4 +3.5
29-Oct Buffalo 98 24-29 L 13% 3% +5.4 +2.5
7-Nov Eastern Michigan 122 28-13 W 85% 100% +18.9 +10.0
14-Nov Akron 84 28-37 L 20% 5% +0.2 -2.0
21-Nov at Massachusetts 100 20-13 W 60% 84% +20.2 +17.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 16.5 121 32.4 95
Points Per Game 17.9 117 32.0 95

2. Quickly hopeless

The Miami defense really did improve in 2015. The RedHawks improved from 113th to 77th in Rushing S&P+ and from 97th to 72nd in Passing S&P+. Dreadful field position numbers (which are obviously caused in part by special teams) and slow starts prevented the overall defensive ratings from improving too much, but really the biggest drag on the defense was the complete and total lack of help from an offense manned by freshmen.

Luckily, those freshmen were playing like sophomores by the end of the year.

  • First 7 games vs. FBS competition: 3.3 yards per play, 216.4 yards per game, 12.7 points per game
  • Last 4 games: 5.4 yards per play, 268.0 yards per game, 25.0 points per game

After continuously falling short of S&P+ projections because S&P+ couldn't get a read on just how bad the offense was, Miami overachieved compared to projections down the stretch.

  • Performance vs. S&P+ projection (first 8 games): -6.0 PPG
  • Performance vs. S&P+ projection (last 4 games): +11.1 PPG

This is a good sign. You can afford to bottom out in a youth movement as long as you begin to see improvement, and it appears that was the case here.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.29 49 IsoPPP+ 89.0 105
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 35.4% 117 Succ. Rt. + 83.8 119
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 33.8 122 Def. FP+ 35.0 125
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 3.5 120 Redzone S&P+ 83.3 121
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 28.4 ACTUAL 31 +2.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 109 111 119 105
RUSHING 110 113 117 111
PASSING 80 102 109 91
Standard Downs 102 117 76
Passing Downs 116 111 121
Q1 Rk 108 1st Down Rk 114
Q2 Rk 119 2nd Down Rk 79
Q3 Rk 106 3rd Down Rk 110
Q4 Rk 111

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Billy Bahl 6'4, 248 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8470 98 220 1409 8 13 44.5% 20 8.3% 5.3
Drew Kummer 59 123 897 7 6 48.0% 5 3.9% 6.7
Gus Ragland 6'3, 213 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7767 20 29 196 3 0 69.0% 1 3.3% 6.3
Kyle Kramer 6'2, 207 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7783
Noah Wezensky 6'3, 195 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8132

3. A training wheels offense

At Notre Dame, Martin proved he could pull the strings pretty well with a young quarterback. The Irish went 12-1 in 2012 despite redshirt freshman Everett Golson taking a majority of the snaps; Martin protected him with the same type of "pass on standard downs, run on passing downs" approach he attempted in 2015.

It makes perfect sense, really. You probably can't trust a young QB to make the right decision frequently or make big plays on second-and-9 or third-and-7, so you put him under pressure the smallest possible number of times. When you've got the down-and-distance advantage, give him easy passes in minimal-pressure situations. When you've got second-and-9, run the ball and at least try to limit his exposure to pressure to one play instead of two.

Though Gus Ragland got reps in plenty of rushing situations -- he attempted just 30 passes (including sacks) and rushed 56 times -- and was Miami's most efficient ball-carrier, Billy Bahl was the primary QB. The true freshman from Woodstock, Ill., struggled mightily in the early going (and I do mean mightily: Bahl completed 37 percent of his passes with one touchdown to nine picks over the first half of the year) while senior Drew Kummer took most of the snaps. But down the stretch it was the Bahl Show. After managing a wretched 59.0 passer rating in the first six games, he improved to 103.8 in the next three and 130.5 in the final three. In wins over EMU and UMass, he completed 22 of 37 passes for 279 yards, two scores, and just one interception.

So do the training wheels come off in 2016? Martin and co-coordinators George Barnett and Eric Koehler (each former Grand Valley State assistants under Martin) might soon have the experience necessary to do what they actually want to do with this personnel. So what exactly is that?

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Alonzo Smith RB 5'9, 225 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7611 124 498 5 4.0 4.2 33.1% 1 1
Kenny Young RB 5'10, 200 So. NR 0.7433 66 284 0 4.3 4.9 31.8% 5 5
Gus Ragland QB 6'3, 213 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7767 56 338 2 6.0 5.9 44.6% 1 0
Leonard Ross RB 5'11, 206 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8028 50 165 0 3.3 3.4 26.0% 1 1
Spencer McInnis RB 5'9, 206 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7300 30 85 0 2.8 3.3 23.3% 0 0
Drew Kummer QB 21 67 0 3.2 2.8 28.6% 4 0
Billy Bahl QB 6'4, 248 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8470 19 74 0 3.9 5.3 26.3% 4 2
Maurice Thomas RB 5'11, 176 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8267 18 206 0 11.4 16.6 50.0% 2 0
Rokeem Williams WR 6'1, 198 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8060 6 30 0 5.0 3.2 50.0% 1 1
Isaiah Hill RB 5'10, 216 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7744







4. Two different directions

The Bahl-vs.-Ragland battle is a fascinating one, not only because both players bring quite a few interesting traits to the table -- Bahl is a huge pocket-passer prototype, Ragland an effective runner and potentially efficient passer -- but because of the effect each could have on the rest of the offense.

With Bahl, one assumes the passing game would take on a larger load this year. That could mean excellent things for a receiving corps with members that took turns thriving. Chris Hudson, now a sophomore, caught 13 passes for 211 yards over the first five games, when Kummer was the main QB. Sam Martin caught 10 passes for 229 yards in Games 8 and 9. Jared Murphy caught seven for 91 in Game 10. Rokem Williams caught 13 for 260 in Games 11 and 12.

All four of these wideouts return, as do tight end Ryan Smith and a batch of youngsters (sophomore James Gardner and three high-two-star redshirt freshmen). Incoming frosh Stori Emerson, meanwhile, was one of the stars of the 2016 signing class.

With Ragland, meanwhile, the running game might come to the forefront. That could mean excellent things. Ragland himself was both efficient and potentially explosive, rushing for at least five yards on 45 percent of his carries and proving that he knew what to do in the open field. But Ragland's presence could help a set of young running backs. Alonzo Smith shouldered a heavy load last year with little to show for it, Kenny Young fumbled far too much to remain on the field (he carried 10 times against Presbyterian and only five times per game thereafter). Leonard Ross had 15 carries for 88 yards against Cincinnati and Buffalo but 35 for 77 otherwise. Maurice Thomas showed serious explosiveness but never earned the coaches' trust (he carried more than three times in a game just once).

Even with the line returning three starters and seven guys with starting experience, the run game needs all the help it can get, and in Ragland, Miami has a guy capable of captaining a more run-heavy offense. I assume Bahl wins the starting job, and it will be interesting to see what role Ragland maintains moving forward. But Ragland was better on a per-play basis than either Bahl or Kummer last year. He might still have a shot at the starting job.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Rokeem Williams WR 6'1, 198 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8060 70 33 543 47.1% 21.1% 7.8 61.4% 40.0% 1.70
Sam Martin WR 6'3, 199 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8181 59 29 542 49.2% 17.8% 9.2 52.5% 40.7% 2.03
Jared Murphy WR 5'10, 184 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8026 52 29 439 55.8% 15.7% 8.4 59.6% 44.2% 1.72
Chris Hudson WR 6'6, 226 So. NR 0.7000 40 18 286 45.0% 12.1% 7.2 47.5% 35.0% 2.03
Ryan Smith TE 6'4, 261 Jr. NR 0.7000 30 21 251 70.0% 9.1% 8.4 63.3% 66.7% 1.16
Fred McRae IV WR 5'10, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7100 19 7 62 36.8% 5.7% 3.3 63.2% 15.8% 2.07
Kenny Young RB 5'10, 200 So. NR 0.7433 16 13 67 81.3% 4.8% 4.2 56.3% 37.5% 0.81
Alonzo Smith RB 5'9, 225 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7611 14 10 79 71.4% 4.2% 5.6 35.7% 35.7% 1.46
James Gardner WR 6'4, 219 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8295 8 3 72 37.5% 2.4% 9.0 62.5% 37.5% 2.23
Spencer McInnis RB 5'9, 206 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7300 8 4 49 50.0% 2.4% 6.1 50.0% 37.5% 1.57
Nate Becker TE 6'5, 265 So. NR NR 3 3 32 100.0% 0.9% 10.7 66.7% 100.0% 0.94
Sam Shisso WR 6'5, 213 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7865 3 2 26 66.7% 0.9% 8.7 66.7% 33.3% 2.84
Alexx Zielinski TE 6'4, 237 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7919
Cedric Asseh WR 6'0, 182 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826
Luke Mayock WR 6'5, 201 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7752
Stori Emerson WR 6'3, 210 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8244
DeAndre Huff WR 6'0, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8178
Tyler Fleetwood WR 6'3, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7906

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 86.7 2.56 3.24 33.7% 53.3% 25.2% 80.7 4.0% 9.1%
Rank 119 113 67 113 121 123 97 44 92
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Trevan Brown LT 12 43
Collin Buchanan RT 6'5, 317 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7500 11 23
Brandyn Cook C 6 16
Zach Hovey LG 6'4, 279 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793 10 10
Sam McCollum RG 6'2, 306 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7932 10 10
Mitch Palmer C 6'2, 278 So. NR 0.7583 6 6
Terry Davis RT 6'4, 290 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8358 3 4
Jimmy Rousher RG 6'2, 288 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7677 1 1
Jordan Rigg RG 6'3, 287 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7533 1 1
Luke Adams LT 6'5, 303 So. NR NR 0 0
Randy Heideman LG 6'6, 309 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8375 0 0
Ryan Mullen RG 6'2, 290 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8008 0 0
Zach Swarts OL 6'4, 286 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7583 0 0
Matt Skibinski OL 6'5, 276 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8314

Ian Leever OL 6'5, 295 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8339

Danny Godlevske OL 6'3, 290 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8356

Trent Maynard OL 6'5, 325 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8329

Tommy Doyle OL 6'7, 275 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8236

Dalton Strunk OL 6'6, 290 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893


5. Stocking up

Miami's offensive line had no chance last year. Never mind the youth (freshman Sam McCollum started 10 games, sophomore Zach Hovey started 10, freshman Mitch Palmer started six, and freshman Jordan Rigg started one), the shuffling was devastating. Because of injury and general depth-chart uncertainty, Miami started nine different players at least once; that can work out well down the line, but a lack of continuity can kill you within a given season.

It will be interesting to see if the depth chart is a bit more stable in 2016. The seven players with starting experience do return, but three-star sophomore Ryan Mullen and three-star redshirt freshmen Matt Skibinski and Ian Leaver could both crack the rotation, if not at the beginning of the season, then by the end. One assumes Martin will want to redshirt each of four high-upside true freshmen, but there's an interesting mix of experience and young talent here, and there might be more shuffling in 2016 because of it.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.36 107 IsoPPP+ 96.5 77
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.9% 43 Succ. Rt. + 102.0 55
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 26.4 125 Off. FP+ 25.0 127
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.5 74 Redzone S&P+ 100.7 68
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 16.5 ACTUAL 17.0 +0.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 68 68 55 77
RUSHING 67 77 44 98
PASSING 80 72 77 71
Standard Downs 58 39 84
Passing Downs 79 92 77
Q1 Rk 121 1st Down Rk 89
Q2 Rk 66 2nd Down Rk 100
Q3 Rk 87 3rd Down Rk 90
Q4 Rk 11

6. Playing it less safe on defense

Notre Dame made the title game in 2012 by in essence playing a bend-don't-break style on both sides of the ball. The Irish tried to protect their QB from too many awkward downs and distances, and on defense, they formed an umbrella and tried to force mistakes for linebacker Manti Te'o to clean up.

Martin hasn't maintained that same sensibility in Oxford. His Miami defense, manned by coordinator Matt Pawlowski (his GVSU defensive coordinator until 2008), wanted to attack you -- the RedHawks were willing to risk big plays in the name of three-and-outs and turnovers. And while they didn't make quite enough havoc plays for this approach to pay off to any major degree, the efficiency was solid ... and the big plays were pretty big. Miami gave up just 57 gains of 20-plus yards (53rd in FBS), but eight went for 50-plus (76th).

Miami attacked the run on standard downs and attacked the passer on passing downs. The approach worked, which was exciting considering the youth in the front seven. Then-sophomores Ikeem Allen (tackle), AJ Burdine (tackle), Zach Smierciak (end), and Paul Moses (linebacker) all played roles in this aggressive front seven, and all of them are scheduled to return.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 101.9 2.62 2.83 33.6% 68.9% 21.2% 160.4 7.4% 9.5%
Rank 51 28 34 17 88 49 3 9 24
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Bryson Albright DE 12 40.5 5.8% 12.5 7.0 1 3 1 1
JT Jones DE 6'3, 263 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7655 12 39.5 5.7% 14.5 9.0 0 2 1 0
Ikeem Allen NT 6'1, 272 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7685 12 25.0 3.6% 8.0 4.5 0 3 0 0
AJ Burdine DT 6'2, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7733 12 18.5 2.7% 4.5 0.0 0 0 1 0
Zach Smierciak DE 6'2, 247 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7900 12 17.5 2.5% 5.0 2.5 0 1 0 0
Mitchell Winters NT 12 17.0 2.4% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Austin Gearing DE 6'5, 250 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7600 12 12.0 1.7% 3.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nate Trawick DT 5'11, 318 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8141 8 7.5 1.1% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Wesley Scott DL 10 6.0 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Quinn Calcagno DE 6'4, 238 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8100 10 4.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Deion Cineus DT 6'2, 316 So. NR 0.7000
Mack Duffin DT 6'2, 279 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7383
Dean Lemon DE 6'2, 249 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8007
Benjamin Kimpler DE 6'6, 240 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8026








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kent Kern MLB 11 63.0 9.0% 12.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Paul Moses OLB 6'0, 227 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8191 12 51.0 7.3% 6.5 3.0 0 0 1 0
TJ Williams STAR 6'0, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) NR 11 37.5 5.4% 2.5 0.0 0 2 2 0
Brad Koenig OLB 6'1, 218 So. NR NR 12 20.0 2.9% 2.5 1.0 0 2 1 0
Josh Dooley LB 12 13.0 1.9% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Junior McMullen MLB 6'0, 236 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8332 10 12.5 1.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Brad Earnest LB 6'1, 229 So. NR NR 5 9.0 1.3% 0.5 0.0 1 0 0 0
Matt Smallbone LB 6'4, 232 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7400
Sam Connolly LB 6'1, 239 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7483








7. The front seven could be rock solid

It does bear mentioning that two key contributors are gone. Linebacker Kent Kern and end Bryson Albright combined for 24.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, four passes defensed, and 15 percent of Miami's overall tackles. Kern was maybe the single best run defender, and Albright was one half of an excellent pass rushing combination. Losing these two means Miami isn't assured of improving up front even with all the returning talent.

Still, it's hard to worry too much about the front seven. JT Jones, the other half of that pass rushing duo, returns, and Allen is a solid disruptor in the middle. Smierciak showed potential as a backup, converted quarterback Austin Gearing is still around, and youngsters like sophomore tackle Nate Trawick, redshirt freshman Dean Lemon, and sophomore linebackers Junior McMullen and Brad Koenig could fill aggressive roles. Pawlowski has a lot of pieces here, and while it might be hard to match last year's No. 3 ranking in Adj. Sack Rate, I would be surprised if the RedHawks fell out of the top 25.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Heath Harding
(2014)
CB 5'10, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8417 12 85.5 12.7% 3 0 2 3 0 0
Brison Burris S 12 62.0 8.9% 2 0 4 3 1 0
Bert Birdsall CB 5'11, 170 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7706 12 35.5 5.1% 2 0 0 3 1 0
Marshall Taylor CB
11 34.5 4.9% 0 0 2 2 0 0
Buchi Okafor S 6'1, 197 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7200 11 32.5 4.7% 1.5 0 1 1 0 0
De'Andre Montgomery S 6'1, 217 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7644 10 32.5 4.7% 2 0 0 1 0 0
Tony Reid S 5'11, 194 Jr. NR NR 10 28.5 4.1% 0 0 1 2 0 0
Joshua Allen S 6'0, 200 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8274 11 10.5 1.5% 0.5 0 0 1 0 0
Allan Koikoi CB 5'11, 193 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7611 12 10.0 1.4% 0 0 0 4 0 0
Daryus Thompson DB 6'0, 185 So. NR 0.7000 11 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Deondre Daniels CB 5'10, 188 So. NR NR 11 7.5 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Merimee S 6'3, 205 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7783
Kendrell McFadden S 6'2, 205 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8914
Tyrece Speaight DB 5'11, 183 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8339
Travion Banks DB 6'0, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8189








8. Late growth

Havoc isn't everything, but Miami's secondary certainly lacked a bit from a disruptiveness standpoint. The RedHawks ranked 16th in defensive line havoc but only 106th in the secondary http://www.footballstudyhall.com/pages/2015-miami-oh-advanced-statistical-profile. Opponents were allowed to complete 62 percent of their passes with a 137.2 passer rating.

Of course, like the offense, the defense improved in this regard down the stretch. Miami allowed only a 45 percent completion rate and an 89.7 passer rating over the final three games. Granted, some of that had to do with the level of competition, but it was a sign that when the defense got at least a little bit of support from the offense, it could make some plays. That's encouraging. So is the fact that, of the 10 DBs who made at least 7.5 tackles last year (Miami played a lot of guys in the secondary), eight are back. And so is corner Heath Harding, a leader in 2014 who missed most of the season with injury.

So you've got Harding replacing departing CB starter Marshall Taylor, and you've got a choice of about three experienced options (and Rivals four-star Kendrell McFadden) to replace safety Brison Burris. This is a good place to be.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Christian Koch 82 38.4 2 28 14 51.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Kaleb Patterson 31 60.5 5 2 16.1%
Nick Dowd 5'8, 205 So. 10 61.7 0 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Kaleb Patterson 22-24 7-9 77.8% 1-2 50.0%
Nick Dowd 5'8, 205 So. 2-2 1-1 100.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Maurice Thomas KR 5'11, 176 So. 27 17.3 0
Fred McRae IV KR 5'10, 180 Sr. 8 18.9 0
Jared Murphy PR 5'10, 184 Jr. 6 8.7 0
Fred McRae IV PR 5'10, 180 Sr. 4 10.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 106
Field Goal Efficiency 62
Punt Return Success Rate 58
Kick Return Success Rate 108
Punt Success Rate 101
Kickoff Success Rate 107

9. Field position assistance would be great

Because I haven't completely stripped special teams impact from the defensive ratings, and because field position plays a role in offensive and defensive ratings, Miami's defense saw its overall ranking tamped down by some mostly awful special teams work. Jared Murphy and Fred McRae IV were reasonably efficient in punt returns, but kick returns, punts, and kickoffs were all very substandard. That Miami will have a new guy at punter, kickoffs, and place-kicker is scary ... but not THAT scary. The bar isn't incredibly high. Still, replacing starters doesn't frequently lead to massive improvement.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep at Iowa 38 -22.4 10%
10-Sep Eastern Illinois NR 12.3 76%
17-Sep Western Kentucky 45 -12.9 23%
24-Sep at Cincinnati 70 -15.7 18%
1-Oct Ohio 95 -2.1 45%
8-Oct at Akron 97 -7.9 32%
15-Oct Kent State 104 1.2 53%
22-Oct at Bowling Green 60 -17.7 15%
29-Oct at Eastern Michigan 121 0.3 51%
4-Nov Central Michigan 85 -4.6 40%
12-Nov at Buffalo 109 -3.1 43%
22-Nov Ball State 101 0.8 52%
Projected wins: 4.6
Five-Year F/+ Rk -32.3% (116)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 90 / 105
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -14 / -12.0
2015 TO Luck/Game -0.9
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 79% (84%, 74%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 3.5 (-0.5)

10. A tough start, and then clear skies

EMU and Miami were the two worst teams in a solid MAC last season, and while I tried pretty hard to talk myself into the Eagles, I mostly failed. Chris Creighton will probably need a fourth year to make something of the husk of a program he inherited.

Chuck Martin might need a fourth year, too, but of the two, I'm much more confident in Miami surging forward this season. With no results to sell, Martin has been outrecruiting basically all of the MAC not named P.J. Fleck, and while a youth movement doesn't necessarily result in progress by itself, a lot of the key pieces of the youth movement looked a lot better in November than they did in September.

With seven games against teams projected 95th or worse (and 4.6 projected wins despite only a No. 107 projection), it wouldn't take that much unexpected improvement for the RedHawks to challenge for a bowl. But the key will be surviving early. Of the four projected top-70 teams on the docket, three come up in the first four weeks of the year. The odds are good that even an improved Miami team will be 1-3 when Ohio visits on October 1. And that's when the season really begins. If the RedHawks can maintain confidence in September, they could be a team worth watching in October and November.